Flying into Portland, it looks a really beautiful place. It’s got a hilly, dynamic, green and water-rich landscape. The city itself, after this, is a bit of a let down to be honest. We’re in the Benson Hotel — a local landmark the programme booklet tells me. It’s at the edge of the downtown district which is small, yet tall. Small is actually good, as it’s not far to get to one of the quieter backstreets where there is plenty of simple, cheap food. Heading North, the areas get slightly seedier (bar, then camping shop, then grocer, the full nude review theatre). After the vibrancy, relaxation and excitement of Toronto, it seems bucolic to say the least.
The Benson Hotel is nice, but somewhat tatty. They got all the frills — doormen outside, chandeliers, idiot guest at the front desk shouting out how badly he’s been treated. The guest room, however, shows that while the attention to detail is there, they have forgotten the basics. The glass in the window has integrated The window frames are dirty and are single glassed sash windows, making the room cold; the heating (which you need as a result) has only a "hotter, colder" thermostat so it takes ages to get it right. The furnishings are all grand but have clearly seen their better days.
I think that I have finally understood the difference between US and European cities. In Europe, evolution and economics has given us strangely organised functional parts of town, with roads randomly and chaotically scattered throughout. The US cities have incredible organised roads with the functions scattered randomly; facely buildings, next a brightly lit shop, next to a bar and then a parking lot ($7 all day — land is not expensive here). I guess Americans get as confused by our winding roads as we do by their building chaos.
Maybe I am being a bit negative here; perhaps it’s because I am being all sad and pathetic and not knowing anyone.
Originally published on my old blog site.